Tag Archives: folktales

“Tam and Cam” (Vietnam)

I read the story of “Tam and Cam”, a Cinderella story taking place in Vietnam. Over the years, I’ve read a few versions of Cinderella stories, and all of them usually contain a plot with a happy ending and no violence involved. However, “Tam and Cam” is very different from other versions. In this story, the Cinderella character, Tam, experiences many violent and gruesome obstacles in her quest to achieve a better future. A common Cinderella tradition that is followed in this story is how Tam meets her husband at the festival, where she loses one of her shoes. An interesting thing about this story is that the Cinderella character is killed multiple times by the step-mother and step-sister. This never happens to the Cinderella character in other stories.

First, the step-mother asks Tam to climb a tree and collect the best nuts to prepare an offering on her father’s death anniversary. During, the climb, the step-mother chops the tree and Tam falls into a deep pond and drowns. However, as this story focuses strongly on reincarnation, Tam is reborn as a nightingale bird and flies off to her husband’s castle. At the castle, Tam’s step-sister, Cam who is now the wife of the king, discovers that Tam is still alive in a bird form. Eventually, Tam is killed again, and her feathers allow her to be reincarnated into a tree. Afterwards, Tam is reincarnated into a fruit, which is given to an old lady who keeps and cares for the fruit. This fruit eventually reincarnates Tam back into human form.

The most gruesome part of this story happens when Cam was surprised by Tam’s beauty and wanted to learn how to become beautiful like her. Tam saw this as a perfect way to finally get revenge and told Cam to get in a hole, which she filled up with boiling water. Eventually, Tam made a sauce out of Cam’s body and sent it to her step-mother, who ended up eating it till she found a skull in the bottom and died from the shock.


Reading and responding to “Cinderella” variants

Margaret Atwood’s “There Was Once” inspired me to think about different versions of the Cinderella story–hers, of course, barely gets started, but is interesting for challenging the expected set-up of the story by exposing the value-laden terms used to establish the characters and setting. After reading the Wikipedia entry on Cinderella and the introduction to The Cinderella Bibliography, you are hopefully interested in reading a few versions. Here are a few you might want to choose from:

Tam and Cam” and another version, “The Story of Tam and Cam“–from Vietnam

Yeh-Shen, A Cinderella Story“–from China

The Little Red Fish and The Golden Clog“–from Iraq

This page has many versions. You might be interested in reading (use the links in the Table of Contents, or use CTRL-F or command-F to search, or just scroll down):

Cinderella; or, The Little Glass Slipper“–from France (Charles Perrault)

“Cinderella” (Aschenputtel)–from Germany (Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm [Brothers Grimm]): the 1812 version and the 1857 version

[EDITED TO ADD: From the comments below, I can see that some classmates have chosen a few stories that can expand our list:

“The Hidden One”-Native American Legend by Aaron Shepard (here is one version)

The Baba Yaga” (Russia, Aleksandr Afanasyev)

The Wicked Stepmother” (India)

Cinderella” (Italy)

ALSO: Chinye: A West African Cinderella

Please add more if you want others to read along with you!]


I’d encourage everyone to read Anne Sexton’s poem, “Cinderella,” as a modern telling and critique of these stories.

Please reply here with a comment saying which version you’re reading. That will allow us to balance our groups for our discussion. If you see that one version is neglected, please consider choosing that one! Ideally, a few students will choose the same version so you can talk together about your version before we have a larger class discussions and short presentations.

After you have read your chosen version, please write a blog post (click on the + at the top of the screen when you’re signed in, or just follow this link) in which you highlight the aspects of the story that were familiar, unfamiliar, surprising, and particularly telling of the values or customs of the culture it came from. Since we discussed blog posts being 300 words, approximately, aim to write 300 words. Your short presentation in class on Monday will come from these thoughts and from your discussion with others who read the same version when we meet in class.

If you have time, try to read more than one version, so we can have more of a comparative discussion. They’re all really interesting, and not particularly long or difficult. If there’s another version you want to share, particularly if there’s one you know from your background, please add it to the comments here so we can add it to our reading list. If you also want to mention more popular or contemporary examples, please do as well!